In 2022, YoungBoy made Noah’s flood look like a trickle, with a torrent of releases that secured his place on the top of the streaming charts amongst more brand-name artists. Though the endlessly controversial Baton Rouge rapper may have jumped from Atlantic to Motown, his strategy of completely overwhelming the market shows no signs of shifting.
The key to YoungBoy’s workaholic overload is consistency — he’s developed a dependable sound, not quite country rap, but aching with a bluesy soulfulness and frequently accompanied by classical guitar. It’s a style he does well, but his voice ecompasses a wider spectrum of timbres and emotions. When YoungBoy veers from the formula in favor of something more unpredictable — like the old school Southern sound he channeled on last year’s 3800 Degrees — he’s easily one of the most exciting rappers out. I Rest My Case splits the difference between these two tendencies: about half the songs are YoungBoy as usual, while the rest go in over futuristic rage beats.
Tracks like “Black” and “Ride Me” come equipped with the buzzsaw synthesizers, sci-fi laser blasts, and pounding 808s, a sound synonymous with producers like Pi’erre Bourne and Working on Dying. There’s no way that I Rest My Case could avoid accusations of clout-chasing, and it’s a sonic choice that risks joking comparisons to Mario Judah or Ken Carson — not to mention the constant references to brands and designers like VLONE, Rick Owens, and Raf Simons.
But the pairing of YoungBoy with a playlist of Playboi Carti type beats is more organic than expected. It’s less trend-hopping for attention’s sake and more to prove that YoungBoy can do any style just as well as those who created it, if not better. He twists his slippery voice into new directions, echoing the “post-verbal” utterances of Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert more than the ballads of Rod Wave.
YoungBoy takes the moniker of “rage” music at face value, using aggressive beats as a vehicle for some of his most explosive deliveries. On “Bitch Yeah,” his demonic voice contorts into a high-pitched whine buoyed by a sharpened resonance at the back of his throat. But in other moments, YoungBoy drifts into a softer falsetto, like on the bright “Just Like Me.” The glittery production on “Swag on Point,” straight out of a Nintendo soundtrack, gives YoungBoy’s music an unexpected art-pop sheen — the kind of euphoric and almost whimsical sound perfected by Drain Gang or Chief Keef in his Thot Breaker era.
In the second half, on guitar-laden and piano-heavy cuts like “Double Cup” and “Hey Pops,” YoungBoy largely retreats to a more predictable palette, the sound of an artist who went out on a limb retreating back to comfortable territory. But in its most inspired moments, I Rest My Case reaches a synthesis of YoungBoy’s current self with the next evolution. Over a cascade of bubbling keys and chirping hi-hats on “Not My Friend,” he breaks into a Lil Uzi Vert-like flow with a punk-influenced cadence, before switching back to a heartfelt croon that’s distinctly YoungBoy.
YoungBoy’s unrivaled workrate and untamed voice is a central part of his appeal. The constant stream of YouTube loosies and deep cuts fuels the rabid engagement of his most devoted fans, who have to pay careful attention to keep up with his endless body of work. But with I Rest My Case, it’s easy to see the downside of his release model, as the project feels overstuffed even at a relatively slim 39 minutes.
Within those 19 tracks, there’s a more experimental EP, but because of the expectations YoungBoy has established for himself, it feels padded out to album-length with what could easily be leftover scraps from past sessions. YoungBoy’s voice makes a compelling argument for itself, but tightening the focus might help strengthen his case as an artist.
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